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Landmark $1B Concussion Settlement Upheld by Appeals Court

By: Allan M. Siegel

An estimated $1 billion plan to settle numerous concussion lawsuits filed by former NFL players has been upheld in a federal appeals court. This decision comes only weeks after an NFL official finally publicly acknowledged the link between football and a devastating condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which has been found in a large number of former NFL players after their deaths. CTE, while usually only diagnosable after death, can manifest itself through a variety of symptoms, including a history of substance abuse problems, sleep apnea, a high BMI, major lifestyle and personality changes, and chronic pain.

Dogged for years by allegations that they concealed the risks of repeated concussions in order to quickly return injured players to the field, this settlement will mean that the NFL will never have to share what it knew about the risks and treatments. The settlement would resolve thousands of lawsuits and cover over 20,000 retired NFL players for the next 65 years. The NFL estimates that as many as three in 10 players could eventually develop moderate dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

According to the three-judge panel who reviewed the case, this settlement will provide immediate and significant relief to retired players living with the consequences of a career in football. The attorneys who negotiated the deal pointed out that the settlement will aid families in getting medical or needed financial assistance that would otherwise take years to obtain if the case were to go to trial.

Plaintiff’s attorneys, on the other hand, are concerned that this settlement is not fair to the victims. We at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata, Siegel, P.C. believe that one of the biggest problems with the settlement is that players will be prevented from putting NFL executives under oath and doing other discovery to get to the bottom of the league’s deceitful conduct. Furthermore, players and families are not likely to receive a fair amount of compensation, and some may not receive any compensation at all. And, as with any settlement, players who opt in will be barred from taking any further legal action against the NFL.

Retired players could receive up to $5 million each if they are diagnosed with Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, severe dementia based on factors including age and number of years in the NFL. Up to $4 million will be granted for prior deaths involving CTE, but the settlement set a cutoff date of April 2015 in order to avoid incentivizing suicides.

So far, more than 8,000 retired players have attempted to register for benefits, and approximately 150 players have opted out of the settlement in pursuit of their own lawsuits.

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